Dark, dusty, even a little bit dingy, Brunswick Apartments have faithfully served students for ages. There's no one to clean the bathrooms, no view like from the top of the Tower, but the rooms are cozy and quiet, and they've got character. Students love them?many seniors choose to live there even when presented with a bevy of other options.
Contrasting sharply with Brunswick Apartments is the construction currently taking place on the College's new Fitness, Health and Wellness Center. According to the Bowdoin Web site, the center will be "sheathed in glass," making it "a literal and figurative lantern: a beacon of fitness, health and wellness for the campus community." With its $14.75 million price tag, the College is sparing no expense to provide spaces for such activities as yoga, meditation, tai chi, biofeedback, massage, and acupuncture.
Make no mistake: The College needs a new fitness center. Three years ago, we used this space to publish an editorial entitled "1,666 students, 6 treadmills," which argued strongly that Watson Fitness Center was inadequate. However, given the current financial crisis and the renovations of other buildings across campus, it seems that some of the frills we've been promised are over the top.
The College has recently invested millions in expensive upgrades to other facilities, including the Museum of Art, first-year dorms, and Studzinski Recital Hall. But students are pampered beyond facilities. In certain dorms, housekeepers empty the trash and clean bathrooms for students every day, and security provides rides across campus on chilly nights. Food choices in the dining halls are endless, and the menu items are gourmet. As many of our families make sacrifices at home to pay tuition, we choose from 20 toppings at the salad bar.
Two forces are at work here. First, there are some parents and students who place a high value on top-notch facilities and services. Many of the College's recent upgrades have come in response to such demands. Second, there's peer pressure, in the form of external rankings and reviews. Administrators and alumni are often concerned with maintaining Bowdoin's image as a first-rate institution.
As the downturn in the economy begins to hit us from both sides?evaporating college savings accounts and diminished endowment returns?the Bowdoin community is going to have to start drawing distinctions between needs, wants, and luxuries. Do we really need miniature TV screens on every treadmill? After all, administrators should have the good sense to recognize that the kinds of people we want at Bowdoin are not lured here by our material wealth, but instead by our excellent faculty, sense of community, and our spirit.
The editorial represents the majority view of The Bowdoin Orient's editorial board, which comprises Nick Day, Nat Herz, Mary Helen Miller, and Cati Mitchell.